Xbox’s Phil Spencer: Video game streaming ‘years and years’ away from being mainstream


“We are looking at the phone in your pocket as the destination for you to stream, and the console that we have allows you to play the games locally,” says Phil Spencer, shown here at E3.

James Martin/The Techy Trends

If you were paying attention at E3, you’d be forgiven for thinking game streaming, via services like Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud, were coming to transform how we play video games — and fast. Like, 2020 fast. 

According to Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, that might not actually be the case. As part of an exclusive series of interviews with The Techy Trends’s sister site GameSpot, Spencer revealed that he expects the game streaming revolution to take longer than some may have anticipated.

“I think this is years away from being a mainstream way people play,” he told GameSpot. “And I mean years, like years and years.”

Spencer referenced Netflix, and how long it took that company to wrestle momentum from traditional TV.

“Let’s take Netflix, which is 20 years old,” he said. “I think we forget that sometimes because tech moves so fast. It’s 20 years old at this point, so it took two decades for us to get to the point where shows like Game of Thrones and House of Cards are some of the biggest shows [on] the planet and mainly watched via streaming. I think game streaming will get there faster than 20 years, but it’s not going to be two years. This is a technological change. While it seems like it happens overnight, it doesn’t.”

Traditional consoles, Spencer says, aren’t going away any time soon. For Microsoft, Project xCloud is about providing broader choice for gamers. Especially in the near term.

“We are looking at the phone in your pocket as the destination for you to stream,” he said, “and the console that we have allows you to play the games locally.”

Microsoft, with its Azure data centers and growing list of internal game studios, is well placed to make a service like Project xCloud wok on a global scale. Its Xbox Live service, complemented by Xbox Game Pass, is essentially already borrowing from the Netflix subscription model. It’s hardly a grand leap to a broad streaming service that allows you to play video games on any device, at any time.  

Public trials for Project xCloud start in October this year.

For more on Microsoft’s vision for game streaming on Project xCloud head here.